Following a beatdown against Florida A&M on Wednesday the Gators kept the positive momentum rolling with another blowout win, this time taking down Stetson by a score of 89-51. Early in the game the Gators set the tone with their defense and carried that intensity for 40 minutes and when their offense started firing in the second half it turned into a dominant performance. This game likely could have been even more tilted in Florida’s favor but they used the opportunity to go deep into their bench early in the second half which only slowed them down slightly on their way to a gigantic win. After missing Wednesday’s game with a knee injury, wing Will Richard was back which gave the Gators a huge boost, though they were still without point guard Kyle Lofton who is dealing with back spasms.
The defensive side of the floor hasn’t been a strength for the Gators so far this season but you have to give them credit for the dominance on that side of the ball against Stetson. They came into the game with a clear goal–defending in transition and defending the three-point line, and they were able to execute that scheme at a high level. Stetson was only 4-17 from the three-point line which was a success for Florida on two levels. Not only did they keep Stetson to a very low percentage (24%) but more importantly they limited the threat by taking away opportunities for them to even take three-pointers. Stetson entered this game having an excellent season on the offensive end and the Gators were up to the challenge playing completely suffocating defense.
Getting The Start
With Todd Golden still experimenting with lineups and dealing with some injuries the starting group has been open to experimentation and on Sunday he gave Alex Fudge his first start as a Gator. Fudge had been tasked with bringing energy off the bench to start the year but got his opportunity to show what he can do playing from the tip with 11 points and 8 rebounds. Stetson was completely overmatched with the athleticism of Fudge who had 3 offensive rebounds and drew a number of fouls on the inside, and the move to start him seems to have paid off. Fudge’s start moved CJ Felder to the bench after he had started every game prior. Felder’s numbers haven’t jumped off the page but he’s a glue guy who is content to defend hard, rebound, and move the ball, and it will be interesting to see if Golden likes him playing that role with the starting group in order to get Fudge’s energy off the bench or if he’ll continue with Fudge in the starting lineup.
Heating Up From Deep
Florida’s three-point shooting hasn’t been where they have wanted it to be so far this season but they shot it with excellence against Stetson going 11-22 from deep. Will Richard, who entered the game on fire, was 4-4 from deep bringing his season total to an incredible 17-29. Trey Bonham and Kowacie Reeves were also 2-5, bringing the shooting you’re starting to get used to seeing from them. There were a couple of other big storylines from the three-point department starting with Myreon Jones going 2-3. His shooting has been a big topic of discussion this year, particularly with how he struggled to start the season, so there will be some sighs of relief seeing him have a couple of shots fall. The final storyline was a three that almost brought the roof down in the O’Dome as the 6’11”, 300 pound Jason Jitoboh drilled his first career three-pointer leading to an eruption of applause from the fans in attendance. Todd Golden has made it known that Colin Castleton and Jason Jitoboh have the green light to let threes fly and when Jitoboh hit one the crowd was deafening.
Playing against mid-major opponents it can sometimes be tough to have takeaways of what this means for the Gators but the team and coaching staff definitely deserves a lot of credit for coming in with an excellent game plan and executing it rather flawlessly. Three-point and transition defense have been two of Florida’s biggest problems this year and Stetson is excellent in those categories so there was a cause for concern in this game but Florida squashed those concerns early and played 40 minutes of dominant basketball. Next the Gators have a top-10 opponent in UConn who has been outstanding to start the season so we’ll get the opportunity to see how much the Gators have grown since Portland.